August 28–November 29, 2015
Curator: Margaret Cool Root
What circumstances formed the artifact-biographies of the collected objects we see in museum display cases? Passionate Curiosities, curated by Margaret Cool Root, invites visitors to meet some of the remarkable people—from eminent scientists to missionaries, from consuls to entrepreneurs, from scholars to swash-buckling adventurers—who forged the Egyptian and Near Eastern collections of the Kelsey Museum between the 1880s and the 1950s.
The featured notables all have ties to the State of Michigan and often to the University itself. They include Samuel A. Goudsmit, co-discoverer of the spin of the electron in 1925; Harriet Conner, an unsung missionary in 1880s Cairo; Henry Gillman, American consul in Jerusalem in the 1880s; Dr. David Askren, an American physician living in Egypt who facilitated massive purchases for Professor Francis W. Kelsey; and A. M. Todd of Kalamazoo, a chemist, global entrepreneur, and utopian thinker who marketed his distilled mint products across the world at the turn of the last century. One famous dealer these figures worked with was the Lion of Cairo, Maurice Nahman.
On view were some rarely displayed artifacts acquired through the efforts of these collectors, including large decorated Coptic tunics from Egypt and a volume from the Kelsey’s rare complete edition of the Napoleonic Description de l'Égypte. Wonderful vintage photographs help open up the fascinating backstories of some of the Museum’s most popular artifacts. Come discover who brought the Kelsey’s child mummy home from Egypt in the 1880s and who gave us the coffin of Djehutymose in 1906!
The book that inspired this exhibition can be purchased in the Kelsey gift shop or online.
Read a fascinating blog post related to the guest book of Maurice Nahman, Antiquaire, on loan from the Wilbour Library of the Brooklyn Museum and on display in Passionate Curiosities.